Friday, 29 June 2012

Vancouver

I'm here, and of course it's cool and rainy. Actually a nice change from hot and muggy in Saskatchewan. Looking forward to a week with friends, and I'm sure my horses will enjoy a vacation too. See you when I get back!

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Thunderbolts and Lightning

Lainey is still a bit ouchy on those new feet of hers, so Ginger got called up to the majors and was tacked up for my Monday night group lesson. I was a little apprehensive after our last disastrous attempt at a lesson with the same crew, especially when the thunderstorm we were having was getting closer and wilder all the time!

Ginger was actually really good. She was calling a bit to Lainey, which is a new thing, but I suspect more just an indication she was anxious about the the storm, her upright rider, and the crowd in the arena and looking for a little extra moral support. We also had to switch from the outdoor to the indoor part way through due to the weather. We were both a bit tense and ginger had the giraffe thing going on a bit :) Eventually we both loosened up and relaxed and had a good 20 mins of better work. Ginger was still pretty wary of the other horses but did her best to listen and trust me. She was looking very confident and proud of herself at the end of our hour with all of the "good pony" praise she was getting. I am absolutely thrilled with her, because even with all the distractions she settled and went around and did the best job she could. What more can I ask?


We laugh in the face of danger!:

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Off to the Rodeo!

I had a last minute invite to the rodeo this weekend. I don't think I've ever been to one before so it was all new to me.
What I think I learned:
-The spare barn boots and jeans I had in my truck are actually NOT appropriate attire for a rodeo. I needed to borrow a bedazzler at a minimum.
-The bareback broncs all looked suspiciously like Ginger
-The calves in the calf roping are really tiny :(
- The "wild" ponies are just kind of awesome. Who knew all those evil ponies we had as kids could have had a real paying career being encouraged to do their worst.
-The bulls are really pretty big
-The bull riders are really small!
-The chuckwagon guys don't want to try out Lainey. Was thinking she'd think it's awesome for 1/4 turn, then think it's way too much work and never pull on me again ;)
-4 porta potties are apparently enough for an entire grandstand.
-An entire grandstand getting served free booze samples.
-$1800 trophy belt buckles. This has a lot of possibility. Why do English people win ribbons? "Yeah, Ginger and I won the walk trot last year- check out my buckle"
- Related to the above, I've never seen so many leather jackets with acronyms embroidered in one place. "Yeah, this is my 2012 competitor coat from the CWTNWT." That's the Canadian Walk Trot National World Tour for those in the know.
-The sun rises very very early this time of year.
- I'm too old to stay up past my bedtime.

Wild ponies doing what they do best:

Lesson Saturday

Lainey had her remaining shoe pulled on Thursday and was still a bit ouchy Saturday so I gave her the day off. Ginger wasn't so lucky.

It was a bit of a mixed bag. I got to the outdoor arena early and Ginger was a little upset that the horses in the previous lesson were leaving her. Not in a bad way, per say, just calling a bit and really tense and unfocused at times. Normal green horse stuff multiplied by the Ginger Drama Factor which is an exponential that obviously varies unreliably like the pony herself :) I love how trainer girl is just all about working with what you've got.

Basically, lets make it our goal for Ginger to walk relaxed on a loose rein once around the ring. And let's make our goal for me to gain some more tools to get her there.

My big take away from this lesson was that I need to remember FORWARD is my go to button any time I feel like I'm getting in trouble. Obviously not forward as in running away, but forward and working properly. Such a simple concept but so hard for me to really apply. If you had asked me before the lesson I would have said for sure that when she's anxious I make her work. I was wrong. We need to multiply my idea of forward and working by about 2.
Shes so sensitive that if I just tense and think "uh oh" for whatever reason, she gets more worked up and falls behind my leg more- you cant fool her. What I really need to do is lose that second of indecision and just steady her and ask for more. More forward, more straightness, more through. Use that energy for positive things. We got some beautiful work from her doing that and I'm super convinced my pony is the best ever ;) I still can't believe how athletic she is, and how easy she finds everything. Its more the mental game for both of us that needs the work at the moment.
I can tell whats going to be a theme in our lessons for a while: Keep my shoulders back and my horse FORWARD!!! If only it was that easy...

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Monday Night Lesson

I jumped on Lainey first as Monday nights are group lessons and Ginger is still nervous of crowds :)
It was pretty rough. It was a dressage lesson and Lainey was not in the mood. Instead of softening and rounding she just wanted to rush and pull and argue. Not fun for me, but a pretty good workout! I'd get her going nicely then she'd start really fidgeting with the contact or lose the tempo. Part of it was of course she's unfit. The other part was she was just in THAT mood and not really wanting to cooperate. If you have a mare, you might come across this every now and then. I know I have those days myself :) At the end of the lesson she just could not stand still and was getting super bitchy that I was correcting her and not letting her give the other horses the evil eye. Silly grouchy mare.

On the plus side, one of the girls in the lesson rode a bit
while we watched and we got to see some beginnings of extensions and collections on a young and made for dressage horse. They made it look so easy. We are starting to play with that with Ginger, who also has an easier time of it, but gets a little nervous that you're asking so much at once! Lainey has a tougher time physically, but can do it when fit. Nothing extravagant, mind you, but the effort is there.

I got on Ginger after and rode as there was just one girl in a walk trot lesson following my ride on Lainey. Ginger handled that just fine, even with hormonal Lainey mare throwing a temper tantrum, running and screaming out in the pasture because Ginger was gone. Never mind that she has the rest of the herd to boss around and could normally care less. Last night her world was ending. Ginger and I only walked around and did a bit of lateral work to keep her interested and make it all not a big deal for her. She must have been fed up with Lainey today because she ignored her completely. She is also sporting a couple of new bite marks, I'm sure courtesy of Lainey, so maybe the love is fading.
Next week I have lessons with both horses on Saturday, a day to ride in my own Sunday, and might try to fit into a jumping lesson mid week with Lainey (she wins, we'll lay off the dressage a bit and do something easy for her!) possibly followed by a ride on Ginger.
Weeknight rides make for a very tired me in the mornings though, I was home last night at 11 and not in bed until 11:30. I also need to solve the dinner problem, something quick and healthy I can eat while I drive!


Lainey stuffing her face, and of course, quite happy:

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Lesson Day Part 2 : Ginger.

Oh my, was I tired after that ride on Lainey. But the adrenalin was still pumping and I was feeling good. Now, not so much :)

Ginger started out fairly quiet. Still, the trick is to have her soften and stretch down, while keeping bigger movement. If you let her she'll go around tense with her head in the air and behind your leg. Pretty much the exact opposite of Lainey. I naturally feel more in tune with Ginger because I want to ride very quiet and soft. With Ginger, this is good, but even with her I have to be a bit more firm at times so she stays confident in me being there for her. I also need to adapt between the two a bit better, poor Ginger essentially did a pirouette at the beginning of our ride when I asked for a square corner more the way I ask Lainey ;)
We had a nice ride, and got some pretty nice trot serpentines going and some bigger trots across the diagonal. Not much to say, we're creeping along at snail speed, and getting to our destination one tiny bit at a time. When I look back to when she arrived half wild a year ago we're doing pretty darn great. The fact that I caught and tacked up a quiet, well mannered pony and spent a good part of the lesson today focused on my position rather than her probably says it all.
Next lesson for Ginger is scheduled for Saturday, but we'll have a nice quiet hack or two before then.

Random picture of a truck in front of me at a light. This made me smile, because I secretly think its totally awesome. Thank you Mr. Wisconsin plates for your amazing rear window:

Lesson Day Part 1: Lainey

I decided to hop on Lainey first because she needs a much more physical ride than Ginger, and I am an unfit weekend rider right now ;)
The bad news is she lost a shoe at some point this week and the farrier wont be out until next week. ( Side note: it's very very hard to find a decent farrier here. This guy does a great job so I'm going to have to be ok with him only coming when he can- as long as it's every couple of months or less!) The good news? She's completely sound and not ouchy so I still rode. I also think we'll try her barefoot again. I've had it in my head she needs front shoes in the summer, but we're not in the mountains these days and I think she's just told me she'll be fine without.
The theme of the lesson was asking her to soften and carry herself, and reminding me to sit deep and not carry her, also not to let her pull me forward. She's built sort of level, which I guess is better than downhill, but she's also lazy so if you let her the default is to rush around on the forehand with her head down by her knees. She's been allowed to do so the last few months, and is out of shape so we couldn't be too hard on her today. We had some really nice trot moments, but she hasnt been worked regularly and it shows. The good thing is we've been here before and I know she will get much better with proper riding and fitness. The canter, well, it was kind of a mixed bag. The first ones were pretty nice, then we both started to tire and it got pretty fast and unbalanced. We took a break and got one good one each way, again too fast, but I rode better. She has a giant stride for a smaller horse and I am out of shape, so it doesn't take much for us to be flying around an indoor! A few times I thought I might die ;). Those that know me would be proud that I stuck it out and rode it the best I could and with a smile. A big improvement from a few years ago when if handed the situation today I would have pretty much shut down and hung on for dear life. That used to be a real problem because I would sit there looking pretty, but I was too frozen to really ride effectively. I also didnt want to admit there was a lot of fear going on, so I ended up overwhelmed more than once, one memorable day even winning classes at a show, but it felt HORRIBLE. The funny thing is, now I just admit when Im uncomfortable, and a good part of the nerves are gone because I always know I have that out if I need it.

I ended pretty happy with her, after all, our fitness and the not so great ringwork can be improved and she is a fantastic safe trail horse so she always gets a free pass :) She does try in the ring, but I'm not sure any horse can compete with a welsh cob work ethic.
We're going to do a little group jumping lesson on Monday to keep it interesting. Next up, Ginger...

Friday, 15 June 2012

Getting Excited!

I've got lessons scheduled on both horses tomorrow. Love it!

Sunday, 10 June 2012

What's new?

Not too much actually. This weekend was a total failure as far as the horses were concerned. I made it out yesterday only to be met by torrential downpour along with thunder and lightning. Today was more of the same so I went to the gym for as long as I could stand it, ruined it by eating chips for lunch, then felt fat and guilty so cleaned the house and read some training books to get some self respect back. Trainer girl was away at a show, so thankfully no lessons scheduled. I've got lessons the next two Saturdays and the weather will hopefully be normal and I can get out for some more rides to explore the countryside. I think Lainey may be ready to pony Ginger along which hopefully isn't too much of an adventure. (Please Lainey, don't teach Ginger your bad habits. You are her idol, and with that comes this thing called responsibility. I do not want to spend the next 20 years dealing with your fallout. Particularly that squeal you make when you're feeling good. You know, just before you buck? I appreciate the early warning, but please let's just keep that whole routine between you and I and preserve some of Ginger's innocence.)

In other news, I have a week off at the end of the month and will be going to Vancouver to meet up with Mr. G. We intend to do some horse trailer shopping, which is pretty exciting to me. As a "grown up" I've had horses 10+ years now but never my own trailer! It will make boarding the girls closer a possibility, which will make me incredibly happy. It will also make it much easier to have access to good clinicians and instructors wherever I live. Stay tuned for what I'm sure will be an interesting time because I've never actually pulled a horse trailer. Boats, yes. But did I back up ever? No, not really...I'd plan my routes so I didn't have to ;) Then I'd get all flustered because there would be people in a hurry and waiting to use the boat launch and usually someone would do it for me. Yes, I was THAT girl, so embarrassing. So, since I am a capable and independent woman in every other way, I will learn to use my mirrors and to back up a trailer. Thank goodness Mr G is the most patient man in the world, and the horses are pretty tolerant too, because this may take a while :) Part of the problem is I am not all that great with right and left. I was the kid with R and L written on the backs of her hands and still randomly used either one to write or eat with. I have to think a second or two when given verbal directions, and usually have to peek at my hands...no R or L there these days, but I can still visualize them.
Luckily I am just fine with inside/outside - the fence is a great visual- or navigating from a course diagram or a map. I dressage because someone was smart enough to provide letters! Perhaps we'll have to practice backing near a fence so Mr G can call out inside/outside ;) Even better, a fence with dressage letters! I'll be backing a dressage test in no time!

The girls last weekend:

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Little Horse on the Prairie

Lainey and I went for another journey on the trail (aka road since we are in Alberta). It was, yet again, a gorgeous day. Seriously, if I won the lottery, my weekends would be exactly as they are, except they would extend Monday through Sunday :)
So in that sort of mood, off I happily ventured. For five whole minutes I was the happiest girl on earth. Then, I was suddenly reminded my not so trusty pony wasnt sharing the love. She loves Ginger even more than I do, to the point that leaving her is something she wasn't willing to discuss. So, like spoiled children, we argued in the middle of the road.
Her: "My friends are back there" (trying to back up)
Me: "I know, but this will be fun, you'll see" (asking nicely)
Her: " I'll back down into this ditch, then you'll see how determined I am"
Me: "You're being dumb. If you get stuck in here I'm going to just leave you." ( kicking her)
Her: "Yes, I believe you. (Hops out of ditch) " But I am still not going forward." (Mini rear)
Me: "You stupid (bad words). YOU are RUINING our nice ride, and I WILL NOT let that happen. I only get to ride you TWICE a week and YOU are not going to ruin it!"
Yes, I really did say the last part, and I must have sounded suitably angry (channeling my mom!) because she just walked on all casual like nothing had happened. Sometimes I wish I had video so I could laugh at how stupid I must look and sound.
So off we went, sunshine and happiness again. When we got up the road near the buffalo pasture she thought twice. I told her she loves buffalo and she believed me. We continued on and she really did start to enjoy herself, back to my trusty trail pony again. She is the alpha horse everywhere we go, and loves to "look after" humans as well if they dont know better, so I think she believes it's her duty to test my boundaries now and then just to make sure she's not truly queen of the entire world. Usually she tries to de throne me in the most public and embarrassing manner, so I thank her, I guess, for keeping it to a minimum on quiet road in the country this time around.
We were only out about an hour and a half but it was enough to make the stress of the past week disappear. I still cant get over how beautiful the countryside is around here. Another fabulous afternoon on horseback. I so wish I took pictures but I was too busy enjoying myself to think of it.
SO THERE, Lainey! ;)

Here's an older picture of the "trail". Just imagine it so green and blue it hurts your eyes. That's the kind of day it was!

Happy

Well, Ginger just keeps getting better and better. I had a lesson on Saturday and it was the best yet, maybe even the best ever on any horse. I'm not saying we did all kinds of amazing wonderful things...we didn't, and to an outsider it probably looked very boring. The riders out there will know what I mean though when I say the connection we had was amazing. I've felt bits and pieces of it before, and a few times been blown away by it, but this was above and beyond. I felt like we could do anything and I think she felt the same - happy, confident, and most of all, relaxed.
Today, the good vibes continued and I played with lengthening her trot and some canter work. Previously, I've had issues with both - she was getting very tight and nervous, and as a result, I suspect I do too. Today we floated around and I can't wait to do it again!

I'm still somewhat of a newbie to this dressage stuff. In the past, I seemed to somehow end up with young horses, and they always seemed to find new perfect homes just as we were getting somewhere. And say what you will, none of them really "spoke" to me. I loved them, and certainly got attached, but never to the point that I wouldn't sell if the right buyer came along.

Times have changed, I'm getting to be a big softie. Don't tell, though, I need my horses to stay on good behaviour!

At any rate, back to your regularly scheduled blog. We floated! I've had hints of that with Lainey, a few strides here and there of a really engaged extension. Ginger just does it effortlessly. And I just sat there. Probably doing everything wrong, letting my outside rein flap in the breeze, no inside leg, sitting crooked, too busy smiling. And still we floated :) I'm well and truly addicted.


Ginger striking a superstar pose:

Lainey Nose Best

I'm stuck taking all of my pictures on an iPhone. It does work, surprisingly well, actually, but there's that annoying delay between the time you press the button and it actually takes the picture. Lainey uses this moment to photo bomb every shot she can sneak into. I have multiple pics of her big brown nose. Heres some examples :)